Recommended Listening: Santa Fe
It has been an exciting, and very challenging, week! Sunday was my 22nd birthday. To celebrate, I traveled almost six hours across Germany to reach the gorgeous city of Freiburg im Breisgau.
This journey was another “first” for me: my first time on one of Germany’s long distance trains, the ICE! The coolest thing about the ride was that there were little screens in each car that told me how fast the train was going (I think our highest speed was 160km/h, which is about 99 mph, but the ICE trains can go up to 300km/h, or 186 mph).
Achtung (“attention” in German): buying a ticket for these trains (I think this extends to the other regional trains as well, not just the ICE) does not guarantee you a seat on the train itself! It just guarantees that you’ll be able to be on the train for your journey. A seat reservation does cost extra. They also offer the option to pre-purchase a city ticket for wherever you’ll be arriving, so you can use the local transportation in that city when you arrive (I think it’s only good for a day, however). I did this really for convenience’s sake, but it wouldn’t have been difficult to purchase an Einzelfahrkarte (a ticket that’s good for up to two hours’ travel in a single direction) for the day at the tram station either, and there are even ticket machines within the trams themselves, but I wanted to make sure I was prepared.
Getting on the train at the Berlin main station was…slightly difficult, as I’d never done anything like it before. Here is an awesome video that details the ins and outs of riding German trains. Another note: it’s very important to find your seat if you’ve paid extra to reserve one, because if you’re not sitting in it when the train departs, after ten minutes the reservation becomes invalid, and then it’s up for grabs…
And if you don’t have a seat reserved, the phrase Ist hier noch frei? (roughly, “Is this seat free?” in German) will be your best friend!
Unfortunately, I’ve only taken a few pictures since my arrival on Sunday, but there will definitely be more to come since I’ll be here until August:
Freiburg is an extremely charming, beautiful, and cozy city, and a vast contrast to Berlin’s exotic, big city feel. It’s near the Black Forest and surrounded by forested mountains, so the city’s connection with nature is easily experienced. Inside the city, there’s a ton of gorgeous old architecture, small, hidden alleyways, cute cafes and bookstores, various ethnic restaurants, and lots of clothing stores (fashion is important here). It’s like Berlin in the sense that there always seems to be something to do or see, and yet completely different (everything is much greener here, for example, but I’ve been told this is because of the mayor, who’s a member of Germany’s eco-centered political party). The people here are also very friendly, and don’t seem to mind when I take three minutes to figure out what exactly I’m trying to say in German.
There is only one drawback: the heat. Freiburg is the sunniest place in Germany, and I was recently told by a coworker that the current summer heat is extreme even for Freiburg. Those of you who know me may know that I strongly dislike any type of warm weather, so this has been (and will continue to be) quite a challenge. Additionally, buildings in Germany (with some exceptions) generally do not have air conditioning, and this includes my apartment, and my place of work.
So, if you visit Freiburg in the summer, be sure to bring some baby wipes with you, and maybe a change of clothes, too, if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time!
I hope to have a post about my internship up sometime next week, but until then, bis später!